Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Author: Rachel Joyce

Publisher: Random House, July 2012

Genre: Literary Fiction

My Rating: A

It is a real pleasure to once again read a book whose characters are interesting, lively, and sympathetic retirees. No stereo-typical “senior citizens” in this novel. Thank goodness, the author realizes people are people no matter what their age. Twenty-somethings can read and identify with the characters as easily as seventy-somethings. Now that’s good storytelling.

Here’s the shortened version of the publisher’s description of the book:

“Harold Fry is recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessey is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.

Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins an unlikely pilgrimage. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.”

The story is told with incredible insight into the hearts and memories of Harold and Maureen. It’s also told with humor. As Harold walks he meets some great characters. It made me think of this book as another version of a great road-trip book. I was also reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac at the same time. It turned out to be a ood comparison.

About the Author:

You won’t believe it when you read it, but The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is the author’s debut novel. But she is no stranger to good storytelling. She’s written over twenty plays for BBC Radio. She’s also been an actress for the Royal Shakespeare Company. She makes her home in Britain, in Gloucestershire. She’s currently woriing on her second novel. That’s a good thing, since I definitely want to read mroe of this new author.


The publisher is generously offering a free copy of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry to one of my readers. (US only, no PO numbers.) Please let me know of your interest in the comment section. I’ll close the give-away one week from now.

Thanks so much to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for my review copy of this book. To see more opinions about this book you can find the tour schedule here: TLC Book Tours

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18 Responses to Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

  1. Louise says:

    I must admit to being completely intrigued by the title of this book, it sounds quite captivating. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it.

  2. Everyone has loved this one. It is on my summer reading list so I’d better get to it soon. Glad u loved it.

  3. Mary says:

    I’m reading it right now so I’m happy to see your high rating (I’ll wait til I finish to read the rest of your review).

  4. kaye says:

    It was hard for me to believe this is the author’s debut novel. I think she did a great job!
    Glad you enjoyed it so much.

  5. Karen B says:

    I’m a seventy-something and would love to win a copy!

  6. Staci says:

    I loved this book….it has great heart and like you, I thought she created characters with depth and made me love them!!

  7. Everyone seems to be charmed by this book – I can’t wait to read it!

  8. JoAnn says:

    This seems like a book I’d really enjoy. Thanks for the giveaway!

  9. kaye says:

    I think this one sounds like a must read! Both you and Staci loved it.

  10. Melissa Mc says:

    I would have totally passed this by based on the cover. But so many bloggers have loved it! Guess I need not be so judgmental!! 🙂 Would love to win!

  11. Beth F says:

    I need to get to this. I love the premise.

  12. Beth F says:

    Oops. Forgot to make it clear that I’d love to be entered to win a copy.

  13. Margot — I will definitely read this book based on your review — but don’t enter me in the contest — I’ve been fortunate to win one of your giveaways and it’s somebody else’s turn now! But I couldn’t just NOT comment — I agree completely that it is always wonderful to read a good book about characters that aren’t in their 20s!!!

  14. Aarti says:

    This sounds lovely, and I think it’s on the Booker long list, no? Which is even more exciting! I’d love to win a copy 🙂

  15. Ti says:

    I typically enjoy unsung hero books and this was no exception. I loved Harold and his wife, Maureen. I thought the story was simple and well done.

  16. nfmgirl says:

    This one was quickly added to my Wish List after learning of it from a book club member. Thanks for the giveaway!

  17. stacybuckeye says:

    This one is already on my wish list 🙂

  18. I’m really looking forward to reading this one myself so I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it. Thanks for being on the tour! I’m featuring your review on TLC’s Facebook page today.

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